Mystery Funny Drama

I was helping out Grandma in the kitchen. It had become our bimonthly ritual since parents had moved into The New House. Mum had wanted to move to a place that had a bigger garden and fewer neighbours. Dad and I had been completely comfortable at The New House once all our stuff was unpackaged. Mum, however, was adamant the place was a fixer upper. So while they spent every other Saturday in the shops comparing swatches of carpet and pouring over tins of paint called things like Iced Latte and Glazed Apricot, Grandma and I would bake.

Grandma was a lady who wore the fruits of her labour with pride. In my seven-year-old eyes, she was a mountain of starched skirts and tasselled slippers ordered from catalogues that only seemed to appear once you reached a certain age, dusted with flour, usually with a coating of crumbs on the prow that was her chest. They would prick my face when it came to the hug goodbye when my parents came to pick me up. While we waited for muffins or cookies to risk I’d sometimes catch her nibbling dough out from under her fingernails in front of Midsomer Murders.   

Her kitchen was huge and well-stocked. But there was still overflow, and that went into a cupboard she rather charmingly called ‘the pantry’. This particular Saturday, we were making Halloween cupcakes. Those would be for me and my friends. I wanted no part of the granola protein bites she was concurrently constructing for herself, which reminded me of warmed rabbit plops. She had muttered something about the GP advising her to go on a diet. Fibre, she said. For her bowels, she said. At the time I thought she was mispronouncing bowls, and pictured her going without food so she could feed the greedy bowls. Hence my alarm when she asked me to get the big yellow one out of the bottom shelf.

“Now, we’ve made cupcakes enough times that we could both do them with our eyes closed, right?” she said.

“Uh-huh,” I replied, even though I didn’t fancy my chances with that, especially when it came to getting the oven working with the little wand of death she called ‘the firelighter’.

“So with these special Halloweenie ones, we need to concentrate all our efforts into the decoration.”

She handed me the page she had torn from one of her supermarket magazines. Various ghouls stared back at me. Frankenstein’s monster, a zombie, a ghost, a vampire. I immediately decided I would focus on the ghost – white with two black dots for eyes – and let her figure out the rest.

I liked to watch her when she was concentrating. Her forehead crinkled up like an accordion, the tip of her tongue poked out from behind her false teeth. The snippets of songs she would sing that didn’t remember well enough, so would often be three songs blended into one that normally sent her cat Peter running for the hills.

She read out the ingredients list and got me to point at the relevant items on the countertop. When she got to “green food colouring” my finger stumbled in its travels.

“Hmm, not there? It must be in the pantry. Rhys, be a love and get it for me would you, while I measure out the sugar?”

I loved nosing about in the pantry. I like to pretend I was a little mouse choosing things to nudge back to my little furry family waiting for me in the skirting board. I hopped off my stool and prepared to “be a love”.

It was dark and cold, but clean. An army of glass bottles lined a couple of shelves. I know it was going to take me a while sifting through them. I didn’t know the size of what I was looking for, only that there was a clue in the name as to its colour. Although what if there was more than one green? Would Frankenstein’s monster favour a lurid neon hue or a softer, grassier tinge? (My parent’s DIYing had clearly already become ingrained).

I decided to pull the light switch. The bit of daylight coming through the frosted front door panel wasn’t quite cutting it. I tried to do it so that Grandma wouldn’t hear it get turned on. She was funny about having too many lights on, “unlike your mother with her umpteen fairy lights along every frame or banister, I don’t have a husband’s money to burn”, she would huff. And that’s why I always stubbed my toes finding my way to the bathroom the nights when I was staying over.

That’s when I saw the strange object. It had been left on the stool she kept there for when she needed to get to the higher shelves. Which I had to use for most of the shelves. You forget that about being that age; everything being so far out of reach. All that stuff you’d find on the ground to entertain yourself with instead. I had a new pet rock or twig every few days. Did I mention I’m an only child?

I put all the green bottles I had found on the floor to sort through in a minute. The strange object demanded my further investigation.

I touched it. It gave. Squishy. Shaped like a doughnut, but in a matte black skin. Then I realised – it was a rubber ring. Perhaps Grandma was learning to swim. She liked to remind me between mouthfuls of croissant or crepe that her doctor was always urging her to be more mobile. And the Olympics was on. She liked to watch the swimmers, especially synchronised swimming, which I just couldn’t fathom. Either dance or swim. Just pick one.

“Are you okay in there, Rhysy?”

I hated ‘Rhysy’. It sounded like ‘queasy’ or ‘greasy’. But I allowed it. Grandmother privileges, and all that.

“Just a sec,” I called out, placing the ring carefully back on the stool.

I sifted through the tinkling pile of vials pretending I was choosing a spell. I finally found the one labelled as food colouring. I handed it to Grandma, who called me clever.

It was time to do some decorating. I thought of my parents, currently so obsessed with what picture frames for what photos would look best in the downstairs loo. Amazing that they could while away an entire afternoon shopping to solve that dilemma when you could be icing cakes and eating them not long after. Sometimes I couldn’t wait to grow up so I could better see what was on a countertop… other times, I was glad it was still a long way off.

I quickly excused myself to visit the loo. Grandma reminded me to wash my hands. Oddly there was red stuff in the toilet. It looked like blood. I knew a bit about women’s business from all the white and plastic things my mum kept in the bathroom but I thought when you got old, that stopped. I had often heard Mum saying to Dad about how she couldn’t wait for that day.


When my parents came to collect me after the baking/nibbling/Midsomer session, I told Grandma to ask them to come out to the garden, where I had prepared a surprise for them. I laid the blue sheet that was normally draped over the garden furniture on the grass – that was the pool. I set up chairs for the ‘referees’ to sit in. I set up Grandma’s ancient radio, balancing it on a brick. It was thankfully already tuned in to some classical channel so I didn't have to search for one in all the noises between stations that sounded like alien messages.

Dad rapped on the kitchen window. He looked tired. When he asked me “are you ready for us yet, Rhys?” I could hear the “and this better not take too long,” even if he didn’t actually say it.

Luckily for him, I was ready.

I cranked the radio up, and the curious faces of my Mum and Grandma joined Dad’s at the window. Then they all vanished. For a moment I felt silly, thinking I’d have to perform my audition for the benefit of the guests at the birdbath, and Peter, who was sitting on a mat licking something off his front paws. I wonder if he ever got dough stuck on them too. But one by one they all appeared at the back door, taking their seats when I indicated for them to.

I cleared my throat theatrically but it was spoilt by sounding too much like a pony that had ingested helium. I told my audience they would be watching an audition for the Olympics Kids Klub Kategory (only I could hear the K’s, and in hindsight, that was a blessing) and I turned to pick up my rubber rings (I’d found the twin of the other behind the pantry door), rolled them up to my armpits and commenced splashing around in the ‘pool’.

And that’s when I found out what a Grandma screaming sounded like. Before that day, the loudest sounds I heard out of her was a disappointed tut that time I dropped an egg into the cat’s food bowl. And sometimes the noises her other end made when she bent over to remove a pie from the oven, which some innate forced advised me from ever commenting on.

That was also the day I learned what haemorrhoids were.


“It was the longest word in my vocabulary at the time, and –”

“Excuse me.” Stacey scraped her chair back. I presumed she needed the toilet. Looking back, I should’ve guessed something was up by the way she took her coat, bag and phone with her, abandoning her tomato soup.

I guess I needed to pick a story that didn’t feature anal ruptures for the next time “most embarrassing thing that ever happened to you” entered the chat on a first date.

I figured since I was the one left paying for it all, I would polish off my meal. Then hers. I next ordered a whiskey and water. Then a couple more whiskies. I went to the bar to settle up and bought myself another for the road.

“Women.” I said to the bartender, who raised an eyebrow. I took this as permission to elaborate.

“It appears some of them can’t handle haemorrhoids,” I began. He fumbled with the glass he was drying, but managed to catch it. “Why ask, if you didn’t want to know?”

My bartender buddy remained silent.

“I think she was a bit of a stuck up cow anyway. Everything was false, from the intentions to the tits.” I was suddenly aware I was slurring. “Girls like that, they’re all take. Fake and take. I bet she dies alone under a heap of Botox and silicon, and no-one would go to her funeral.”

“I would go,” said the bartender, and it was my turn to raise an eyebrow. “What with her being my sister, and all.” He slammed the now overly dried glass down and told me to get out.

In the drunken stumble home that ensued, I was hit by the clear epiphany that my Most Embarrassing Thing story had just been updated.

October 20, 2023 13:42

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Stevie Burges
09:29 Dec 28, 2023

Thanks Karen - a well-written short story. Enjoyed it.


Karen McDermott
14:31 Dec 28, 2023

Thank you


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Danie Holland
10:59 Oct 27, 2023

Karen, this ending was a treat I did not see coming. I couldn't help but laugh! “Why ask, if you didn’t want to know?” - gold and then finding out the date was the bartender sister, another comedic twist. Thank you for the story!


Karen McDermott
11:33 Oct 28, 2023

Thanks for taking the time to read. I'm super happy you enjoyed it!


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